Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Body Language is Important for Entrepreneurs

If you’re a startup entrepreneur, odds are you’ve practiced your pitch time and time again. Perfecting your pitch is what can land you that big investment you’ve been waiting for.  But there is a good chance you’re neglecting something—and believe it or not, it has nothing to do with the words coming out of your mouth.  You may have the perfect pitch, but do you have the correct body language to match that pitch?

Communication is made up of three parts: what you say, how you say it and what your body says.  Something that is meant to be genuine can easily sound false if all three parts are not working in unison. Investors operate a lot like lie detectors—if you do not communicate to them properly, they will call you out and forgo investment. Entrepreneurs must be aware of how their body language sends messages. 

Eye contact: Whether you’re talking to a camera, an audience or an investor, it is essential to maintain strong eye contact. Eye contact is a sign of honesty and strength.  But, remember, it is not meant to be a staring contest. It’s perfectly okay to blink; too much eye contact can be creepy and forceful. When an investor is talking, be sure to listen not only with your ears, but with your eyes as well.  This shows you’re really listening.

Posture: Your posture communicates how you feel about yourself. In actors terms, posture says a lot about a character.  In fact, actors use the term body center when creating a character. The body center is the point of your body that you decide to be the highest point—everything else hangs from this point.

If your body center is at the bottom of your sternum, your shoulders tend to be hunched over.  This conveys low status and low self-esteem.  A center at the back of your shoulders pins your shoulders back, conveying high status and confidence. Your arms send a message as well.  If their crossed, it can seem like you’re defensive. If they are hanging loosely at your sides, it says you’re relaxed and open.

Handshake: The art of the proper handshake can be a hotly debated topic in the business world. How long to you do it? How strong do you grip? How much eye contact? How much shaking should there be? There have been entire books written on shaking hands. It is true that a handshake can make or break any deal.  Just remember—do what’s comfortable for you, but be strong and confident when shaking hands. 

Confidence: Your motions speak volumes about your confidence and how people view your competence. Never hesitate; everything you do should seem as if it’s planned. It’s the art of being able to act relaxed and natural, but deliberate at the same time.    

First impression: An entrepreneur needs to own whatever room they walk into and positively establish a presence. When giving your pitch, don’t stand in one spot.  Move around a little (but not too much!). This will show confidence, ownership of your personal area and enthusiasm in your product or service. 

Movement: As mentioned earlier, movement is a good thing, but too much movement isn’t.  It is important to avoid fidgeting—whether you’re tapping your feet, messing with your hair, or doodling; all of these are signs of nervousness or boredom. It’s known as a displacement activity (the act of trying to distract yourself from an uncomfortable setting). Nervousness in front of an investor can be disastrous. Try to turn nervous energy into positive energy and enthusiasm during your pitch. 

The key to becoming fluent in your own body language is to identify what you may be doing wrong. Instead of practicing your pitch in front of the mirror or a friend, record it with a video camera. You will always be your greatest critic, just be sure to not dwell on the negatives. Identify them, correct them, and then move on.  Isn’t that what entrepreneurship is all about anyway?  

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